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May 13, 2013  

Supplied by Dr Carol Austin and Trevor Court from ActiveWorx

On 17 March 2013 Gerald Ciolek  (Team MTN-Qhubeka) made history by winning one of cycling’s five “monuments”, Milan Sanremo in 5:37:20, ahead of Peter Sagan (Cannondale Pro Cycling) and Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack Leopard). The full drama and significance of this achievement for Ciolek and Africa’s first ever continental team is highlighted in the newly released documentary video Team MTN Qhubeka: An African BicycleDream Episode 1 .

Milan Sanremo is the longest one-day event in the world, traversing an undulating 298km route from Milan in Northern Italy to the coastal city of Sanremo close to the French border (Figure 1).

This year’s edition was historic and uniquely challenging. Extreme weather conditions forced organisers to stop the race after nearly two hours of racing in snow and very low temperatures. At the 115km mark, the race was temporarily halted and athletes circumvented the Turchino and Le Manie climbs in team buses. The race was restarted an hour later in the coastal town of Cogeleto in heavy rain.The final 126km followed the race route, which included the race determining Cipressa and Poggio climbs in the closing 28km.

Ciolek crested the Cipressa in a select group of around 40 riders. On the descent world champion Philippe Gilbert (BMC) attacked. His move was closed down by a group of six riders lead by Chavanel. A group of three - Vorganov, Chavanel and Stannard - then launched an attack  and were  successful in achieving a 30sec advantage. On the Poggio descent Sagan and Cancellara, the two pre-race favorites, led a successful counter attack which Ciolek followed. They caught the two leaders with 4km to go and despite two further attacks by Chavanel and Stannard, the group of six came into the final kilometer together. Ciolek outsprinted Sagan (2nd) and Cancellara (3rd)achieving Team MTN-Qhubeka’s first victory at a World Tour level.

While the 2013 race was shortened by about around 55km, it will enter the history books as an unforgettably tough edition, given the extreme weather conditions.

Fig 1: Milan Sanremo - Route and Profile



SRM Data Analysis

The conditions were bitterly cold, wet and treacherous.
Photos best document the poor visibility,grimacing faces and ice-coated helmets and bikes with frozen gear and brake cables. Based on the average temperature of 4.8°C and average speed of 43kmph,the estimated wind chill factor for the entire race was -1°C. The first half of the race was significantly colder, with a wind chill factor of -3°C. Hardened pros who have been racing for years broke down in tears and for many of the riders their race ended as they surrendered to the warmth of the team bus after just 2 hours of racing. It was character definining day, where only the toughest gladiators got to taste the sweetest victory.

Key summary data as shown in Fig 2 & Fig 3:

Part 1                                                             Part2

Time:2hr44m16s                                     Time: 2hr53m24s

Distance:115km                                      Distance:126km

AverageSpeed: 42kph                           AverageSpeed: 43.7kph

AveragePower: 205W                            Average Power: 279W           

NormalizedPower: 252W                       NormalizedPower: 329W

IntensityFactor: 0.644                             IntensityFactor: 0.837

AverageCadence: 85rpm                      Average Cadence: 88rpm

MedianCadence: 95rpm                        Median Cadence: 100rpm

AverageTemperature: 3.7 °C                 Average Temperature: 5.9°C 

Wind Chill Factor: -3°C                           Wind Chill Factor: 0°C 

EnergyExpenditure: 2020cals                EnergyExpenditure: 2907cals

Fig 2: SRM File 1stHalf of Milan Sanremo

T: Time, P: Power, H: Heart rate, S: Speed (kph), C:Cadence, A: Altitude (m),D: Distance (km), E: Energy (kilojoules

Fig 3: SRM File 2ndHalf of Milan Sanremo

T: Time, P: Power, H: Heart rate, S: Speed (kph), C:Cadence, A: Altitude (m),D: Distance (km), E: Energy (kilojoules)

The Cipressa Climb

The Cipressa climb started 28km from the finish and it was on this climb that the final showdown began. At the top of the climb the peleton had whittled down to 40 riders. Ciolek ensured that he was in a good position on the climb and averaged 396W for just over over 11-minutes. His cadence was notably high at an average of 98rpm; an approach aimed at minimizing muscular fatigue ahead. Chavanel and Gilbert attacked just over the top of the climb but were quickly reeled in. With 20km to go Vorganov attacked and was followed by Stannard and Chavanel. This was a risky time gamble on a break considering the flat fast section between the Cipressa and Poggio, but the escapees drove hard and managed to maintain a lead of 30s going into the Poggio giving them a realistic chance of victory.

Fig 4: SRM File Cipressa

T: Time, P: Power, H: Heart rate, S: Speed (kph), C:Cadence, A: Altitude (m),D: Distance (km), E: Energy (kilojoules)

The Poggio Climb

The Poggio Climb proved to be another 400W 8-minute effort. Again Ciolek maintained a good position near the front, and a high cadence of 98rpm. Towards the end of the climb the decisive move was initiated and this led to a rapid upward shift in Ciolek’s power as shown in Fig. During this hard 40-second effort he produced an average of 536W and put in a final 989W surge to stay in contact with his break away companions.

Fig 5: SRM File Poggio Climb

T: Time, P: Power, H: Heart rate, S: Speed (kph), C:Cadence, A: Altitude (m),D: Distance (km), E: Energy (kilojoules)

The Final Run-In

Just after the Poggio climb a group of 6 riders, including Ciolek, escaped from the peleton. They descended rapidly towards the finish line, at an average speed of 48kph for the last 6km of the race. Within the last 6.25km and 7min49sec Ciolek performed seven successive acceleratory efforts of 800W and above (Fig 6).

Acceleration 1
:  On the descent just after the crest of the climb. 3 seconds – Ave 852, Max 897W.

Followed by 59 seconds at ave 217W

Acceleration 2
: Mid descent. 3 seconds – Ave 541W,Max 836W.

Followed by 58 seconds at ave 206W

Acceleration 3
: Towards base of the descent. 4 seconds– Ave 869W,  Max 949W

Followed by 32 seconds at 199W

The next three accelerations were decisive and ensured that Ciolek was in the right position for the sprint.  

Acceleration 4
: At the base of the descent. 4seconds – Ave 831W, Max 903W

Followed by 34 seconds at 272W

Acceleration 5
: With 2.4km to go Sagan attacked. Ciolek accelerated hard to cover the move. 6 seconds – Ave 1127W,  Max 1306W

Followed by 1min7sec at 228W

Acceleration 6
: With 1.5km to go Stannard lauched his final attack, which was followed by Sagan. Ciolek jumped to follow his wheel. 5 seconds – Ave 998W,  Max 1115W

Followed by 1min16 at 238W

Acceleration  7 “Race Winning Sprint”:
Ciolek started his race winning sprint with 291m to go, achieving an average power of 1028W for 19s with a max of 1386W.

Fig 6: SRM File Final 6km


T: Time, P: Power, H: Heart rate, S: Speed (kph), C:Cadence, A: Altitude (m),D: Distance (km), E: Energy (kilojoules)

To win the first major classic ahead of Peter Sagan and Fabian Cancellara through these weather conditions is amazing,” said team principal Douglas Ryder. “We were coming into the race hoping for a top 20 but every rider gave everything they could to help Gerald.

“It’s unbelievable,” said Ciolek after crossing the finish line. “This is an unbelievable success for us and just an incredible day. We just came here as a wildcard and now we’re standing here with the trophy. This is great. I knew I had to follow all the best riders on the Poggio and it worked out perfectly.



Gerald Ciolek is currently ranked 11th in the World with this season’s results.

Team MTN-Qhubeka trains and races with SRM Training Systems

The team is coached by Dr Carol Austin and Trevor Court of Activeworx